A Few Blocks

A Few Blocks by Cybele Young is my new favorite. Natalia Ortega-Brown of A Picture Book A Day recently recommended it to me, and she was SO RIGHT that I would love it.

Ferdie, in typical baby brother style, does not want to go to school today. Or maybe ever again. His big sister Viola sweetly encourages him to walk to school by creating a magical world along the way. They encounter speeding jets, pirate ships, knights in shining armor, dragons and princesses all before they reach school. I love the pictures, I love the words, I love that Viola and Ferdie love each other and work together. I love A Few Blocks.


The illustrations in this book are just as magical as the story. Ferdie and Viola’s real world environment is sparsely drawn in inky black and white with shades of gray. Still full of life, but a just a bit plain.

To show their world of play and make-believe, Young creates colorful paper collages of cut out scenes from their real world. Each page is such a beautiful juxtaposition of both the real and the imagined.

Make sense? In this picture, there are angry rolling waves of brown, green, and blue, dolphins swimming, clouds, lightning, and birds. And of course, Ferdie and Viola sailing their ship across the water. But inside all of those imagined elements, you can clearly see the real scene through which they are walking on their way to school. See the neighborhood houses, the streetlight, the telephone pole? The sprinkler, bicycle and school bus?

It’s brilliant, right? What a wonderful way to visually represent both real and make-believe.

Young’s use of color is an additional punch to the design of the pictures. The real world is black and white, and the world Ferdie and Viola create is in many shades of colors. I doubt she is saying that their real life is dreary and bleak, but the saturation contrast is one more way to show the wonder of make-believe.

A lot can happen in just a few blocks. Here’s to colorful ones, and ones with just a touch of magic.


  • Posted December 8, 2011 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    This sounds WONDERFUL! and I think the illustrations are fabulous. WOW! What a fun book!

  • Posted December 8, 2011 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    They are! I wish I had better shots of them…each is so intricate and fun to study.

  • Posted December 8, 2011 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    Oooh! I have another Young book called Ten Birds! I love that book and now I am definitely going to add this one to my library! I mention Ten Birds briefly in this post, http://readschmead.wordpress.com/2011/03/05/picturebooksgalore/. I know you will love that book as well. So very clever.

  • Posted December 8, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    Oooh, looks amazing! My Christmas wish list is getting ridiculous:) Thanks for the suggestion!

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